evo 2018

Does ARMS Have a Future in esports?

Fans of fighting games need no introduction to the importance of the EVO Championship Series. For years, this event has provided countless hours of intense top-level play for various fighting games. While the event often takes place in the U.S., this year saw the emergence of EVO Japan, which took place from January 26 – 28. The event saw tournaments for some of esports’ most popular fighting games – Street Fighter V, Tekken 7, and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, to name a few. But among the games played at EVO Japan, there was one that stood out. There was a game that had something to prove. And that game was ARMS.

Last year, this author discussed if ARMS, the unique and inventive fighter from Nintendo, deserved its slot at EVO Japan. With EVO Japan having come and gone, now is as good a time as any to discuss ARMS’ future as an esport. How did EVO Japan affect ARMS’ chances at becoming a widely recognized esport, if at all? Let’s talk about it.

What EVO Japan meant to Arms

Going into the event, it was easy to look at EVO Japan as a “make or break” point for ARMS as an esport. On one hand, the event served as a possibility to show off the game’s competitive community to the world. However, at the same time, if ARMS underperformed in regards to viewer engagement and impact, then ARMS may not get another opportunity to be played on a world stage. With EVO Japan’s ARMS tournament having come and gone, it seems that the latter of these two may have been the fate for ARMS.

ARMS’ Grand Finals were entertaining, but did it do enough to convince people that ARMS can be an esport? Image: YouTube

In terms of numbers, ARMS had over 320 entrants, which was the smallest amount of entrants in any game played at the event. However, this is understandable given that ARMS is a new intellectual property that is mechanically unlike any other fighting game and has a competitive community that isn’t even a year old yet.

Mirroring the game’s player count in the tournament, ARMS didn’t get a significant amount of buzz during the tournament. Moreover, the videos-on-demand for ARMS’ tournament at EVO Japan have received significantly less views than other games featured at EVO Japan.

Despite what the game’s dedicated fans hoped, ARMS failed to make a significant splash among the more recognizable, reputable games at EVO Japan. Another blow to the ARMS’ competitive community was the recent confirmation that the game would not be featured at EVO 2018 later this year. However, ARMS’ poor performance at EVO Japan and the game’s absence at EVO 2018 aren’t enough to effectively kill the game’s future as an esport. Does ARMS have enough in itself to warrant a healthy future in esports?

A Skill Ceiling that may be too low…

One of the most important things about any esport is its watchability and viewership. ARMS’ watchability has been a question for many. As with almost any other fighting game, it’s clear to see that top-level ARMS players have a great level of skill. However, ARMS lacks two things that many fighting games benefit from: immense depth and spectacle.

“Pega” was the victor of Grand Finals for ARMS at EVO Japan. Image: YouTube

Let’s take Super Smash Bros. Melee as an example. When you watch top-level play, it looks significantly different from watching beginner-level play. Melee has advanced techniques, wavedashing, and many character-specific toolkits that make each individual player’s playstyle feel different from one another. This has helped keep Melee in the esport spotlight for so long – despite the game being over fifteen years old.

At least as of the time of writing, ARMS lacks this level of depth, which hurts both the number of players and viewers of the game. Watching the ARMS tournament at EVO Japan, one can certainly see that the players in the event were using advanced techniques and movement. However, when watching, one may ask: how much can top-level play develop beyond this tournament? 

It’s unclear if ARMS’ competitive metagame can develop much further than it already has. While ARMS was enjoyable to watch at EVO Japan, the technique displayed in the tournament didn’t seem much greater than technique displayed at the ARMS Invitational at E3 in June of 2017. Part of what makes esports entertaining to watch is seeing the development of top-level play. It’s exciting to see how players for our favorite esports can get better, and push what’s possible in the game.

The Issue of Characters

One final critique is with the game’s characters. Characters are the bread and butter of fighting games – especially for fighting games that are esports. Games like Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Tekken 7, and Street Fighter V have a vast variety of characters with different playstyles and toolkits. Tournaments for these games can be exciting to watch just from seeing different characters being represented. Also by seeing the different playstyle and techniques that accompany those different characters. Watching a Smash 4 tournament and suddenly seeing more obscure characters like Wii Fit Trainer, Shulk, or Mr. Game and Watch can suddenly make that tournament more interesting.

EVO

Fighting games live and die by their characters. Do the characters of ARMS feel different enough from each other? Image: Smashboards

ARMS lacks this. Unlike most fighting games, the most significant thing that changes a player’s techniques and playstyle are the “ARMS”, or weapons, that they choose for each round. The character you pick when playing ARMS only affects certain character-specific moves, that can allow them to charge their attacks. Some characters, like Master Mummy, have stronger grabs, but for the most part, characters are defined by unique gimmicks.

These gimmicks include Spring Man’s rage factor when he gets below 25% health, Ribbon Girl’s multiple jumps, Mechanica’s hover, Master Mummy’s regeneration when he blocks, among others. But are these enough to make each character feel significantly different to watch from any other? No, probably not. ARMS’ characters only impact complementary techniques. The main techniques and depth of ARMS’ combat comes from which “ARMS” the player chooses.

Unfortunately, the variety of “ARMS”, while fairly sizable, doesn’t feel vast. Many “ARMS” are the same or recolors that have different elemental properties. There are only a few types of “ARMS”, such as umbrellas, whips, boomerangs, and so on. If there were a greater variety of different types of “ARMS”, then ‘ARMS’ combat could begin to feel more vast and different. As is, though, there are not enough that significantly change up players’ techniques and playstyles, making competitive play not feel as interesting as it could be.

Can ARMS be Saved?

As much as one may critique ARMS as an esport, many people would still love to see ARMS become an esport in some capacity. However, the odds of that happening are certainly not in the game’s favor at this point. With Nintendo recently confirming that there will be no more significant updates, nor anymore DLC characters and stages, the game itself will likely remain as it is now.

One of the most restrictive things from ARMS becoming an esport is actually in consideration of the fact that players are constantly locked on to one another. If players could freely roam around 3D arenas, somewhat like the Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm games, then ARMS could become more interesting.

EVO

ARMS is noticeably absent from EVO 2018’s roster. Image: Shoryuken.

The story of ARMS is an admirable one. It fought hard to become an esport, and it continues to have a vibrant and dedicated community. However, the game simply didn’t have enough in it to grab much attention on the esports stage. Can ARMS be saved and become an esport? It’s unlikely, but ARMS builds a great framework for sequels that could become esports. It has great competitive potential as a franchise, but there needs to be some tweaks to the core design of the game. Getting rid of the constant lock-on, and having characters feel significantly different from each other is already enough to make a sequel that has more competitive capabilities.

So does ARMS have a future as an esport? One would argue that it does through a potential sequel that fixes and improves upon the framework of the 2017 game. As is, ARMS seems like it doesn’t have enough to pull in viewers and become an esport. But the franchise is still young, and becoming an esport is a possibility if future installments take good steps forward.

 

But what do you think? Do you think ARMS can be an esport, or do you feel that a sequel to the game has better chances? As always, join the conversation and let us know!


 

Featured image courtesy of Nintendo Versus via Twitter.

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From our Haus to yours.

EVO Japan

EVO Japan wraps up. Promises to return

The Evolution Championship Series held it’s first ever event in Japan recently. Organizers wanted to host an EVO event in Japan back in 2011. Unfortunately these plans were postponed indefinitely due to the big earthquake that occurred that year. Now, 7 years later, Japanese fighting game players had their chance to win a prestigious fighting game event without having to travel internationally to participate.

The country showed up in force. Online warriors that never travel abroad surprised many who had not seen them on a live stage before. It kept the competition fresh compared to many of the tournaments streamed in the US. The matches were fierce and unpredictable, and made for a wonderful viewing experience, especially live. For those of you that couldn’t attend, or could only watch online in the wee hours of the morning, don’t worry! The Game Haus has you covered.

Days one and two

The crowd at EVO day 2. Image taken by The Game Haus

Days one and two of EVO Japan took place at the Ikebukuro Sunshine City Community Center building. There weren’t many signs indicating where to go, but after wandering aimlessly for a few I managed to find the event space. I was greeted by cacophonous noise and a pair of girls passing out free Red Bull to attendees. The floor was naturally separated by game, and every seat was filled with participants playing casuals. Each game also had a special stream area setup, and these games were projected up on the walls for those that wanted to watch. The event used a large stage in the back to present the top 8 of games that would not be present on the final day.

There was a small section of stands near the entrance for vendors to sell gear or promote new games. Both BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle and King of Fighters XIV’s new DLC character Oswald were playable on the floor. Unfortunately, the lines stayed long even to the closing moments of the last public day. High level players and pros from each game played against each other during their time off stream. They would even play against relative new comers to give them pointers on their play.  I considered joining in for some Street Fighter V casuals myself, but saw that the row in front of me was filled with Mago, Dogura, Itabashi Zangief, Momochi, and Tokido, and I decided against embarrassing myself.

Finals Day

The last day of EVO Japan took place in central Akihabara in a relatively small venue when compared to the first two days. There were no frills, no casuals, and almost nothing left but standing room. No one seemed to mind though; it was high level action that we came for, and it was high level action that we got.

Super Smash Bros. WiiU

EVO Japan

MKLeo accepting his trophy. Image taken by The Game Haus

1st: Echo Fox | Leonardo “MKLeo” Lopez (Cloud)

2nd: Yuta “Abadango” Kawamura (Bayonetta)

3rd: DNG | Takuto “Kameme” Ono (Shiek/MegaMan/Cloud)

As the only non-Japanese player in the Super Smash Bros. Top 8, MKLeo was the only man in the bracket not playing with home-field advantage. This isn’t to say he was necessarily the underdog, but all eyes were on him in these grand finals. MKLeo had a decent head start by entering the grand finals in the winners bracket as well, but Abadango had proven himself in the losers finals by taking Kameme out 3-0. For Abadango, this was a potential revenge match as well, as MKLeo knocked him into the losers bracket earlier in the top 8.

The first match began with MKLeo as Cloud and Abadango as Bayonetta. In my preview article I mentioned that I didn’t really follow competitive Smash much, but it was difficult not to be enthralled the energy in the room as both players fought for nearly a full minute with over 100% damage each. MKLeo took game one with a fortuitous air slash that sent his opponent off screen.

Undeterred, Abadango stuck with Bayonetta for match 2. It seemed he learned a thing or two from his first match against Leo’s Cloud. Through a series of great air juggling and impressive edge guarding, Abadango was able to take both of MKLeo’s stocks in under 2 minutes. Leo knew he needed to make a change, and came back ready for round 3.

Bayonetta had a much more difficult time getting attacks in on Leo’s 3rd round Marth. No matter the approach or strategy, Marth stood ready to zone with his Dancing Blade special. Though things looked dicey when Abadango nailed some aerial combos, MK Leo ended up taking the 3rd round without losing a single stock.

Though he won with Marth in the 3rd round, MKLeo went back to Cloud for the 4th and what would be final round of the tournament. It appeared he gathered himself a bit after his win as Marth. His Cloud looked more confident, and more willing to contest Bayonetta’s advances. That isn’t to say that the game was one sided. Quite on the contrary, though Abadango took MKLeo’s first stock when he already had over 100% damage on his final stock, he looked like he was poised to take the game too. In the end though, MKLeo finished the round, and brought the EVO trophy home for Echo Fox, for Mexico, but most importantly, for himself.

Tekken 7

1st: ROX | Knee (Paul/Bryan/Steve)

2nd: ROX | Chanel (Eliza/Alisa)

3rd: N.M | GURA (Geese)

EVO Japan

Chanel resetting the Tekken 7 bracket. Image taken by The Game Haus

What surprised me most about the Tekken Grand Finals was the amount of versatility top players in Tekken have with their character picks. In the Grand Finals series alone the two players from ROX cycled through no fewer than six different characters. As a player of Street Fighter, I’m used to seeing players have one main character with maybe one alternate that they pick up for specific match ups. Tekken is clearly a different beast.

The first round began with Knee on Bryan Fury while Chanel picked Akuma, a character that he seemed comfortable with previously. Chanel may have been anticipating Knee to pick Paul Phoenix, who Knee used extremely effectively in his previous matches. The Bryan pick seemed to catch Chanel off guard, as Knee dismantled his opponent. Chanel needed to lose another round with Eliza before finding his groove with Alisa. Using Alisa, he managed to come back from his 2-0 deficit to reset the bracket, and force Knee into a second best of 5 match.

Knee seemed confident in his Bryan pick enough to start out the set with him, but Alisa still proved too strong. After rethinking his strategy, Knee switched to Steve Fox, giving him more mobility against Alisa’s attacks. This appeared to be the counter he needed, as Chanel’s Alisa could not keep up. After a surprising yet ineffective switch to Lucky Chloe by Chanel, the final round came down to Knee’s Steve and Chanel’s Eliza. Though Chanel put up a fight, his teammate’s boxer ended up taking the EVO trophy.

Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2

 

Nage accepts his prize money alongside a dancing Cup Noodle. Image taken by The Game Haus.

1st: NAGE (Faust)

2nd: OMITO (Johnny)

3rd: GGP | Kazunoko (Raven)

I’m honestly a bit torn about the results of the Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2 tournament. As a Johnny player myself, I rooted for Omito for most of the tournament. I find his unique movement style fun to watch, if challenging to play. That didn’t stop me from enjoying the chaos that was watching a high level Faust player climb up the ladder.

For those unfamiliar, one of Faust’s main mechanics involves him throwing random objects on the battlefield. These items can be as mundane as a small hammer that deals damage when it hits. They can be a great utility as well such as a spring board that launches the opponent in the air if they step on it. The items can also be darn near OP such as a black hole that roots enemies in place, or a giant meteor shower that covers most of the screen. A good Faust player has to react to these random items to try to get the best conversion possible, which is exactly what Nage did during the grand finals.

Omito put up a great fight. These grand finals could have easily gone to either player. I honestly wondered when some of Omito’s combos were going to end as he put on a display of just how much he knows about Guilty Gear and it’s systems. He even managed to reset the bracket before Nage took the final set 3-2 in a series that went down to the very last round. For fans of the game, it doesn’t get much more hyped than that.

Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition

1st: Infiltration (Menat/Juri)

2nd: John Takeuchi (Rashid)

3rd: Hx | CYG BST | Daigo Umehara (Guile)

EVO Japan

Street Fighter V Top 8 posing after Infiltration won. Image taken by The Game Haus

I think the whole of Japan released a disappointed sigh when Daigo Umehara was eliminated from the event. Few fighting game players can be called a Legend in their scene, but Daigo is definitely one of them. If he were to win the first ever EVO event in Japan, it would have felt like destiny. Alas, it was not to be. Infiltration’s Menat was able to use her superior range to out-zone Daigo’s Guile.

It wasn’t just Daigo who had trouble with Infiltration’s Menat. Until John Takeuchi knocked Infiltration into the loser’s bracket during the winner’s semi-finals, Infiltration’s Menat looked nigh invincible. Takeuchi played a patient game, waiting for Infiltration to come to him before making his attack. He found that Infiltration was able to react to almost any offense thrown at him, and decided to give himself space to react to Infiltration instead. Infiltration quickly realized that Menat was not going to win him the match, so he switched to Juri. Juri’s unique rhythm threw Takeuchi off for a game, but the mental damage may have already been done, and Takeuchi sent Infiltration to the losers bracket.

In the grand finals, Infiltration went with Juri from the get-go. He continued to be a thorn in Takeuchi’s side, constantly interrupting his rhythm with Juri’s far

reaching normals and well timed invincible reversals. The pressure clearly got to Takeuchi, who began to play much more aggressively in hopes of turning the tide. By the time he regained some of his composure, Infiltration had already reset the bracket. Though he did better in the second set, Infiltration still took the tournament 3-1.

 

An annual event

EVO Japan

The Grand Finals Venue before it was crowded. Image taken by The Game Haus

I suppose I can’t speak much further than next year, but a representative came on stage at the end of the event to announce that EVO would be indeed returning to Japan next year. The crowd erupted in applause. No one was sure if it would happen given the rough history of trying to bring an EVO event to Japan. I couldn’t be more excited to see what games show up at EVO Japan next year. If Dragon Ball FighterZ is still popular, it’s highly likely it will make an appearance. In the next year both Soul Calibur VI and BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle release as well. EVO Japan may be in the past, but the future looks just as exciting, if not more so.


Featured image taken by The Game Haus.

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EVO comes to Japan

This weekend, for the first time in the history of the tournament, EVO will host an event in Japan. This seems strange considering that a large number of the games played at the tournament were created by Japanese developers. Of course Japan hosts its own tournaments for said games, but EVO has become one of the largest annual fighting game tournaments in the world. Top Japanese competitors for years have had to travel to the United States to compete for EVO’s considerable prestige and prize pool. After almost twenty years, things are finally changing. Let’s take a look at the games present at the first annual EVO Japan.

ARMS – 327 Competitors

EVO Japan

Image courtesy of Shoryuken.com

Unfortunately, EVO Japan may be ARMS’ last showing as a main event at a tournament of this scale. After the initial positive reception, interest in the game declined rapidly outside of a core group of enthusiastic players. Nintendo seemed to sense this too. The developers announced in December that the Version 5 patch would be the final major content update for the game. While they claimed they will still make balance patches as necessary, it is difficult to see the statement as anything other than a nail in the coffin.

With that said, 327 is no small number of competitors. Though by far the smallest competition pool of the tournament, it’s commendable for what is arguably a niche title even among fighting game fans. If EVO Japan is where competitive ARMS play ends, at least it’s a great opportunity to send it off properly.

Tekken 7 – 1202 Competitors

EVO Japan

Image courtesy of Shoryuken.com

Tekken is a game about complicated family issues that tasks the player with mastering equally complicated juggle combos. Compared to the previously mentioned game, Tekken has nearly four times the number of competitors at EVO Japan. This makes it the second largest competition at the tournament and it’s not difficult to see why. Tekken has somehow managed to be not only a competent and satisfying fighting game, but one with characters fleshed out by a cohesive, if convoluted, story. Since its debut in 1994, it has grown to a cast of nearly 40 playable characters on disc in Tekken 7. Many will argue that some characters aren’t viable in competitive play, but the amount of different characters picked in competitive play still feels large. The diversity in the character roster means that matches are hardly ever boring to watch.

The game also has a leg-up in popularity over some of the other games by being a staple at many arcades in Japan. Despite having its roots in the arcade scene, Street Fighter developer Capcom decided against creating arcade cabinets for the series’ fifth iteration. Tekken has been there to fill that void, and its popularity may have gained a bit of a boost as a result.

Super Smash Bros for WiiU – 757 Competitors

EVO Japan

Image courtesy of Shoryuken.com

I’ll start this section off with the disclaimer that I’m still new to the competitive Smash scene. As someone who plays the game casually, I am amazed at the amount of knowledge high level players have about what I thought of as a party game for so many years. Without that knowledge, it is sometimes difficult to keep up with the action. However, it is easy to see that the Smash community is one of the closest knit fighting game communities that exists. Whereas other competitive fighting games receive support from their developers after the game gains traction, Nintendo has left the entire fate of the Smash competitive scene on the players themselves. Prize pools tend to be smaller as a result, so the top players have to commit a lot of themselves if they hope to make a living.

But this atmosphere makes Smash compelling to watch, and it is why the community is so close knit. They aren’t competing for the largest prize pools. They aren’t receiving as much support as the other games. Without that additional hype, many would lose interest after a time. The people left are there because they love the game, and they want to be the best at it. If that doesn’t make for some compelling, high intensity games to watch, then I’m not sure what does.

GUILTY GEAR Xrd REV 2 – 1187 Competitors

EVO Japan

Image courtesy of Shoryuken.com

When it first released in 1998, Guilty Gear had some stiff competition in the 2D Fighter genre. At the time, there were not many fighting games that could compete with the hype surrounding Capcom or SNK’s games. 1998 was a particularly competitive year, seeing the release of Street Fighter Alpha 3, Marvel vs Capcom and King of Fighters ’98. Guilty Gear still managed to find its niche with a unique music style, colorful characters and over the top combos.

Compared to other fighting games I’ve played, I find the combat system in Guilty Gear to be the most complex. Learning jump cancels, roman cancels, the tension gauge and various other systems often proves too much for my poor brain to comprehend at once. This makes watching play between those who have mastered these systems so enthralling. The combat is fast paced, visually stunning and incredibly technical. Even without knowledge of the game’s systems, it’s worth a watch.

BlazBlue: Central Fiction – 595 Competitors

EVO Japan

Image courtesy of Shoryuken.com

BlazBlue is commonly considered the spiritual successor to Guilty Gear. While the Guilty Gear brand was experimenting with new genres with the release of Guilty Gear 2: Overture in 2008, developer Arc System Works also released BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger into arcades late the same year. At the time there had not been an updated arcade release of a Guilty Gear game since late 2006. Something was clearly needed to refresh the arcade scene, and BlazBlue was the answer.

There are certainly similarities between BlazBlue and Guilty Gear. Characters move in much the same way, and you can even see the inspiration taken in some of the main character designs. The action is just as fast paced and high-execution as its predecessor as well, making it an absolute joy to watch. While the latest Guilty Gear chose a more cell-shaded 3D art style on a 2D background, the current BlazBlue retains its original sprite animation art style, so there is plenty of reason to watch both if you’re a fan of “Anime Fighters”.

The King of Fighters XIV – 542 Competitors

EVO Japan

Image courtesy of Shoryuken.com

From 1994 to 2003, developer SNK released a new main entry in the King of Fighters game every year. While spin-off titles were released with reasonable frequency, the time between main entries became few and far between. Released in 2016, King of Fighters XIV was the first main entry in the series in six years. Fans responded with the enthusiasm you can probably imagine. That being said, it is clear to see that KOF’s long absence from the competitive spotlight has done it some harm. Though the margin between it and BlazBlue is small, KOF is the second smallest tournament at the event.

That is not to say that it isn’t worth watching! KOF is unique at EVO Japan as the only 3v3 team fighting game. With a line-up of around 50 characters to choose from, team compositions are dynamic and diverse. For the most unique viewing experience at EVO Japan, you’d better take a look here.

Street Fighter V Arcade Edition – 2217 Competitors

EVO Japan

Image courtesy of Shoryuken.com

We’ve arrived at the main event. At 2217 entrants, the Street Fighter V tournament nearly doubles the size of the next largest tournament. Developer Capcom received some harsh criticism early in the game’s lifespan as fans complained about server issues, lack of transparency in announcements and the absence of expected features. Since the game released in early 2016, Capcom has worked hard to slowly turn this opinion around. While players will always find something to nit-pick, the general consensus is that Street Fighter V is a much better game than when it launched.

Add to this the fact that the latest edition of the game, Arcade Edition, just launched less than two weeks ago with the addition of fan favorite character Sakura. More importantly, in terms of competitive gaming, it brought a laundry list of sweeping balance changes to individual characters, as well as the combat system as a whole. None of the players in this tournament have had more than a couple of weeks to adjust to these changes before competing. The 3.0 patch flipped the entire competitive scene on its head. Even if you’ve watched competitive Street Fighter before, it’s doubtful you’ll have seen anything like what’s about to unfold in Tokyo this upcoming weekend.

EVO Japan takes place in Tokyo, Japan from 1/26 – 1/28 Japan Standard Time.


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Why Splatoon 2 deserves to be an esport

On November 5, SetToDestroyX became the champions of Squidstorm 2017. This event featured Splatoon 2, a game that has become just as, if not more popular than its predecessor. This is largely thanks to the game being on the Nintendo Switch, a system currently doing far better than the Wii U ever did. The original Splatoon was a huge surprise hit, in many peoples’ eyes. It was unlike any other shooter on the market, yet still featured modes that could be played competitively. The original game sold quite well, but it was ultimately held back in terms of reaching a wide audience because of the game being released on Wii U.

With Splatoon 2, that’s quite far from the case. As of September 30, Splatoon 2 has sold 3.61 million units, and continues to sell well. The game is getting into the hands of more and more players. Thus more people are becoming aware of Splatoon’s unique identity. Squidstorm 2017 is an example of what Splatoon’s future could possibly be. Is the game on its way to becoming an esport? Some would argue that it already is. Then does Splatoon 2 deserve to be considered a viable esport? In my eyes, yes. Let’s talk about why.

Splatoon is different, which is only a good thing

One of the greatest aspects of esports is the amount of variety of games on display. So many esports are significantly different from one another. One of the biggest components of Splatoon’s identity as a brand and game is its uniqueness. There’s literally no other game on the market like Splatoon, which draws people into playing and even watching the game. However, does this really make an impact on the game’s viability as an esport?

In my eyes, yes. Super Smash Bros. is a great example of why being different can only be a good thing. Many fighting games that we see at big tournaments such as EVO focus on having players deplete the other player’s health.

splatoon

The Nintendo Switch’s reveal trailer showed Splatoon 2 being played as an esport. Is this getting closer to becoming a reality? Image: Nintendo

Smash Bros. is refreshing to many viewers of events such as EVO because of how different the game’s mechanics and overall objective is from other fighting games. It makes the game and its community stand out among all the other games and competitive communities being showcased.

Perhaps to a lesser extent, ARMS does this as well. As I’ve talked about before, ARMS stands out among every other fighting game out there because of how its mechanics and gimmicks are unique. No other game is played quite like ARMS, which many players and viewers admire about the game. That said, ARMS still has yet to prove itself as an esport, but I feel like that game finds itself in a similar position to Splatoon right now.

Both games haven’t gained a large amount of traction in regards to becoming esports, despite garnering respectfully-sized competitive communities of their own. While ARMS is different from other fighting games because of the extendable arm mechanic, Splatoon is different from other competitive shooters because of the ink mechanic. Additionally, Splatoon is also different due to its objective of not focusing on killing other players, but rather working with one’s team to achieve a certain goal.

Is Being Different enough?

Many people would naturally respond to this argument with something along the lines of, “Just because a game is different doesn’t automatically make it worthy of being an esport.” While there’s some truth to that statement, Splatoon does far more than just being different from other competitive shooters. As stated above, Splatoon’s ink mechanic makes the game different, and it’s also a naturally exciting mechanic.

Playing or watching many matches of Splatoon will show anyone that players can use their team’s ink in a variety of ways. Some players stay in their team’s ink to play stealthily, while others use ink to flank members of the other team. Simply put, it’s exciting to see the different ways in which the game can be played. The more obvious layer of variety within the competitive community of Splatoon is the kinds of weapons players use. The game is frequently being updated and re-balanced.

Splatoon

Splatoon 2 sees many updates and balances, along with new weapons being added, such as the Nouveau Inkbrush. Image: Siliconera

This encourages Splatoon players to use different types of weapons to suit their play style. And just about any weapon is viable, which makes each match feature different weapons. This adds to the variety and “freshness” that we see in competitive Splatoon. This variety that we can see in competitive play is a characteristic of any esport.

Lastly, we also see variety in regards to the game’s modes. Like many other esports, Splatoon offers multiple competitive modes. The three competitive modes – Splat Zones, Tower Control and Rainmaker – all feel significantly different from each other. And yet they offer the kind of frantic, strategic action that only Splatoon can provide. Any game that offers a variety of competitive modes, all of which are entertaining to play and watch, deserves to at least be considered as a viable esport.

The game’s competitive community is tried and true

Although I love Splatoon, I’ve found myself on the fence on whether or not the game should be considered as an esport. This instantly changed when I watched the 2017 Nintendo World Championships (NWC) in October. This event showed to me how fun it is to watch competitive Splatoon matches. The event opened my eyes about Splatoon’s viability as an esport. The game’s representation at the NWC convinced me of something. It convinced me that the game is just as, if not more entertaining to watch than many other shooters that are esports.

I feel that events such as the NWC and Squidstorm are important. They give the competitive aspects of the game more publicity. They also convince people about Splatoon’s viability as an esport, just as I was when I watched. With the impressive sales of the Nintendo Switch and Splatoon 2, I would love to see a greater amount of competitive events for Splatoon.

Splatoon

Splatoon 2 was played at NWC and convinced me that the game had a future as an esport. Image: Nintendo

The game simply belongs alongside many other competitive shooters. Splatoon’s unique gameplay mixed with the variety of modes and play styles makes it stand out among many esports that people watch. I’m convinced that Splatoon is worthy of being watched by many people in the context of the game being an esport. The game already has a sizable competitive community. What needs to be expanded is the game’s recognition for those who don’t play it. Splatoon is capable of being an esport if more people see the game represented at tournaments. This will make the scene become more and more familiar with Splatoon and its fresh identity. And I feel that events such as the NWC and Squidstorm are great first steps towards that.

Do you agree or disagree with Splatoon deserving to be an esport? Join the conversation and let us know!


 

Featured Image courtesy of Nintendo.

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The free DLC model: The future of competitive games

This past weekend, Blizzard unveiled Overwatch’s next hero: Moira. Blizzard confirmed that this new support hero will be releasing soon.

Moira will be one of the multiple new heroes that have been added into Overwatch since launch. Even though the game released almost 18 months ago, Blizzard still keeps the game fresh by continually delivering free updates and downloadable content (DLC). The DLC offerings for Overwatch mainly add new characters and stages. However, the more significant DLC releases that add new characters are spaced out between each other. Beyond keeping the game feel fresh, the addition of new DLC characters requires players to reassess how they play the game. Thus, the addition of new characters via free DLC keeps players on their toes. They also encourage players to learn new characters and/or how to play against them.

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Street Fighter V uses the free update and DLC model to much success. Menat is one of many characters that have been added post-launch. Image: Shoryuken.

This approach to DLC isn’t exclusive to Overwatch. The practice of free DLC over time has been done with other games, such as the likes of Splatoon and Splatoon 2, ARMS, and Street Fighter V. All of these games use free DLC character and stage releases over time as a means of keeping players coming back to the game. If a Street Fighter V player dropped the game, they may want to come back when they hear about a new character being added.

All of these games have received ranging extents of praise for using the free update model. While the model concerns some, others find it to be a positive thing. I ultimately think that the free update model is great for competitive games. Could we see more games adopt this approach to releasing additional content? Let’s talk about it.

The Worries caused by weak launches

I think the greatest concern of the free update model is that it may serve as an excuse for weak launches. The launch of Street Fighter V is likely the best example of this. The game featured only 16 characters, with few modes available outside of standard matches. Many believe that Capcom was only able to get away with releasing a $60 game with such a little amount of content because they promised to add free updates and DLC throughout the game’s life. Almost two years after release, Street Fighter V has received various new characters, stages, and modes. Many believe the updates to the game have made Street Fighter V finally be worth its $60 price tag.

I don’t think anyone will disagree that Street Fighter V is one of the worst launches for a competitive fighting game. Moreover, I understand why the game’s approach to free updates and DLC has worried many people. The thing about Street Fighter V is that it sets a dangerous precedent – a precedent that developers can quickly release a game and develop it afterward.

ARMS is another example of this, though to a lesser extent. The game launched in June with ten characters, and has added two additional characters as of writing. However, ARMS and Street Fighter V are quite different cases. The issue people had with ARMS was a lack of additional modes, making the gameplay start to feel stale to some. Street Fighter V, unlike ARMS, has previous iterations to work off of. The exclusion of additional modes and lack of character roster at launch made Street Fighter V feel like a product of laziness. Most people in opposition to the free update and DLC model voice don’t want launches of competitive games to feel lazy.

While the model possibly allowing developers to offer mediocre experiences at launch is an understandable concern, I think the pros of the model certainly outweigh the cons.

Why the free DLC model works

While there are some concerning factors, I feel that the free update and DLC model is beneficial for competitive gaming. With the case of Moira being added into Overwatch, the greater community of the game will be reignited, in a sense. Tons of, if not, all players will be trying out Moira, and learning how to properly use her and how to play against her. It preserves the experience of playing the game for the first time. The first time anyone plays a game, a lot of the fun and competitive nature comes from learning about the nuances of each character. In the case of Overwatch, learning the game comes with learning how to play as each hero, and learning which heroes are best for countering the other team’s heroes. Having a new character added to the roster shakes up how one approaches how they play the game.

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When Ana got added into Overwatch, it certainly reinvigorated and strengthened the game’s community. Image: PlayOverwatch

In addition, the new content gives the community something to talk about. This naturally causes more and more people to hear about the game and can go on to pull in new players and viewers. The new content being added for free is a key part of this. If Overwatch’s new characters were paid DLC, I think the response we would see from the game’s community wouldn’t be as bombastic. I have no doubt that people would still be excited, but part of paid DLC is that it splits the userbase. Making new characters and other content free to download keeps the community – competitive or otherwise – from becoming segmented.

If the player base isn’t segmented, then neither will the viewer base. Free updates and DLC are great in that they keep the game as all-inclusive as possible. No player or viewer gets prohibited from playing or watching a certain character because of a paywall for a certain character or mode. In addition, it keeps things exciting for the casual esports viewer as well. New characters or modes can go on to make an indifferent viewer into an invested one. New content keeps things interesting not only for the players, but for viewers as well.

The future of free dlc and updates

Free DLC and updates are part of what makes esports so fascinating and entertaining. Unlike traditional sports, esports can constantly throw in new components to existing games which can make the community for that game become even larger. These additions can create a greater player base and viewer base.

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For years competitive games, including Smash 4, have used paid DLC. Could this model be on its way out? Image: Gematsu

I don’t think this model will be going anywhere soon. The games that have employed this model of free updates have only benefited from the model. The metagames for Overwatch, Street Fighter V, and even ARMS have only become more complex and entertaining for players and viewers thanks to the addition of new, free content. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this model become incorporated into more and more competitive games throughout the next few years. The games that have used the free DLC and update model have all flourished because of it. Therefore, it isn’t difficult to see future games wanting to do the same.

Agree or disagree about the future of free DLC and updates? Feel free to join in on the conversation. We’d love to hear your thoughts!


 

Featured image courtesy of Polygon.

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Does ARMS deserve its spot at EVO Japan?

New intellectual properties (IPs) are the backbone of the video games industry. Without new IPs, we would only ever see the same franchises over and over again. This would only make gaming, competitive or otherwise, become stale and boring. Thankfully, over the last few years, new IPs are becoming very common in all corners of gaming. In 2015, Nintendo gave us Splatoon, a competitive shooter with a unique, territory-claiming mechanic. Last year’s Overwatch is probably one of the best new IPs in the last decade. I say this for the community Overwatch has gathered in the year and a half that it has been out. In addition, the game is widely played both casually and competitively. This has helped make Overwatch an esport over time. 2017 has continued the trend of delivering new IPs that can be played both competitively and casually in the shape of ARMS.

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The first-ever EVO Japan will be held on January 26-28, 2018. ARMS is one of the games that will be played at the event. Image: Shoryuken

ARMS is a Nintendo Switch exclusive that launched in June. Prior to the game’s release, many believed that the game would become an esport. This was because of the game’s premise – a 1v1 or 2v2 fighting game that could be played without intrusive items or stage hazards. The game had a diverse cast of characters, with the promise of more characters and stages being added for free, similar to how Street Fighter V and Overwatch approach adding new content to their respective games. It looked like the pieces were aligning. It looked like ARMS was capable of becoming Nintendo’s next esport.

When ARMS released in June of this year, it certainly made a splash. Though, perhaps not as large of a splash as many people were hoping. Nintendo’s recent financial report claimed that ARMS sold a total of 1.35 million units as of September 30, 2017. Given the circumstances of being a new IP, the game has sold modestly well. However, a lot of the game’s coverage by streamers and YouTubers dropped off shortly after the game launched.

Despite all of this, the game still has a competitive community. One that’s small, but constantly growing. So much so that it was confirmed this summer that the game will be featured at the first-ever EVO Japan this coming January. I would like to discuss the game’s inclusion at the event. Specifically, I want to discuss if the game truly deserves to be there.

What makes ARMS different?

ARMS is Nintendo’s first take at a traditional fighting game. Nintendo’s unique style and approach to game design definitely shows in the game. For those unfamiliar with the game, ARMS features fighters that use extendable arms in somewhat small arenas, some of which have unique gimmicks. The strategy of the game comes down to which ARMS the player wants to equip, in addition to which character to play. As is a staple of the fighting game genre, different characters have different abilities and advantages, making each feel unique from one another.

As is standard for the company, Nintendo made ARMS completely different from any other fighting game on the market. While most fighting games encourage players to get close to one another to deal damage, ARMS encourages the exact opposite. The player needs to position their character in a specific way to inflict damage. In addition, the player has to strategize how they use their ARMS. Players have to constantly think about their spacing from their opponent. They also need to think about the best ways to use each of their ARMS, and how to take advantage of the arena’s shape, size and mechanics.

Due to the game’s gimmick of extendable arms being the main mechanic, ARMS looks and plays unlike any other fighting game. However, this brings some advantages and disadvantages.

The consequences of being different

A critique on ARMS that I have heard from many streamers and content creators online concerns the game’s viewer appeal. People feel that the game is simply too boring to watch. It’s impossible to comment on a game’s watchability from an objective stance. How watchable something is to you depends on what kind of gameplay you think is interesting to watch. Many people who enjoy watching fighting games may not enjoy watching MOBAs, and so on.

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Aesthetically, ARMS looks quite different from your typical fighting game. Image: GameXplain

However, this critique tends to come from fans of other fighting games. Since ARMS is so different from other fighting games, it isn’t able to immediately draw in members of other fighting game communities very easily. Moreover, the game simply looks different compared to most competitive fighting games. Traditional fighting games like Street Fighter and Guilty Gear all have their characters face each other on 2D planes. Tekken offers 3D movement, but still has the camera set up in a way that we see two characters facing each other, making it look like a traditional fighting game. ARMS offers a behind-the-back camera angle, something that is very rare to see in multiplayer fighting games.

Lastly, the game is a new IP, which is always a roll of the dice in regards to creating a community. When Street Fighter V launched, the game instantly garnered a competitive community thanks to the previous entries’ already established competitive communities. ARMS doesn’t have that luxury. Since it’s so different and it’s the first game in its series, ARMS has to earn a competitive community. This is easier said than done. So how exactly can ARMS accomplish creating a community as large and diverse as, say, the Street Fighter V community?

The game is a perfect fit for evo japan

In order to give ARMS a chance at having a large competitive community, there needs to be a big step forward. Having the game be featured at a huge event like Evo Japan is that step forward. Evo Japan will highlight ARMS and the community it has gathered thus far. If the game’s presence at the event impresses viewers, the community could become exponentially larger. We could even have a new well-recognized esport on our hands. ARMS is in a unique make-or-break position with EVO Japan. How the game’s tournament goes and resonates with viewers will determine a lot of the game’s competitive future. This puts a lot of pressure onto the ARMS players that will be at the event, but perhaps that may give them more drive to make the game as entertaining to watch as possible.

ARMS’ inclusion at EVO Japan could make the game huge. Image: Nintendo

Does ARMS deserve to be at EVO Japan this year? If I were to answer that based on the game’s competitive community and status right now – no, I don’t think it does. However, the event provides a potential for the game to turn from a small-ish competitive community into a huge one. And being a fan of the game myself, I think this game deserves to take advantage of the potential that EVO Japan is providing. It’s an incredible opportunity for the community of ARMS to grow. Therefore, I think ARMS more than deserves to be at EVO Japan in Janurary.

However, this is just my opinion. What are your thoughts on ARMS’ inclusion at EVO Japan? Join the conversation and let us know!

 


 

Featured Image courtesy of Nintendo.

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Derek.

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